“Transitions can be keenly anticipated or feared. They can be stepping stones….and new stages of life or they can be fraught with uncertainty.”

– Taylor, W.D.  (1994)

As an International School we are constantly dealing with students coming and going. Often we think about these from the perspective of the Arriver or Leaver – but what about the friends we leave behind? A great way to think about this is through the Transition Cycle developed by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken (2011). Both of these researchers have done tremendous work with Third Culture Kids (TCK’s) and looked at the impact of transition on wellbeing. Pollock and Van Reken believe the Transition Cycle has five main stages:

  1. Involvement. The first stage involves feeling settled and comfortable in a place that we know; we feel like we belong and know where we fit in. 
  2. Leaving. The second stage is marked by the realization that we will be leaving our place of comfort. As we realize this, we may begin leaning away from our responsibilities, commitments and relationships. There are often mixed emotions during this stage. For example, we may feel both anxious about leaving and excited about moving to a new place. 

For this stage it’s important we make our R.A.F.T. according to Pollock and Van Reken. 

RAFT stands for: 

  • Reconciliation
  • Affirmation
  • Farewells
  • Think Destination
  1. Transition. This stage begins when we actually leave our place of comfort and ends when we make the conscious decision to settle into the new place. During this stage we may be confronted with chaos and stress. It can take up to eighteen months to transition to a new location. 
  2. Entering. This stage begins when we feel ready to become part of life in the new place. We begin to figure out how we should go about becoming accepted, start to reach out to others and taking some risks. 
  3. Re-involvement. Finally, we reach the stage where we feel accepted in the new place. We begin to have the feeling that our presence matters and that we belong.

How long does it take to transition to a new school or a new city or country? Research says anywhere from three months to eighteen months. Yes, that’s right. Up to a year and a half would be considered normal. It’s important students, friends and family understand this and are kind to themselves and accept that transition can take time – which can often be frustrating for our students who want things to go back to ‘normal’ and the way they were at their previous school or city.

As a parent, how can you help? Communication is key. Making time for conversations is critical and you must be intentional about this – which can be challenging if you haven’t had regular chat during the current time. Make it a special date where you can discuss your own personal transition feelings and see where the conversation leads. You’ll also want to start these early if you are transitioning away from Hong Kong (at least 2 months) to give proper time to follow the RAFT model. 

If you ever need advice or want to talk about transitions our guidance team are always here and ready to help – just drop us an email. Transitions are a reality for an international community and it’s important to give them the time and respect they deserve.